What to Do When Stopped by Police

The basic materials in this segment were reproduced by the Allegheny County Chief's of Police Association with permission from Deputy Chief Ondra Berry of the Reno NV Police Department. The guidelines have been modified, when appropriate, to reflect the operations of the various Municipal Police Departments in Allegheny County. It is designed to encourage cooperation and improve relations between the police and the citizens that we serve in the culturally diverse communities of Allegheny County.

Questions About Rights

The information contained in this pamphlet is for your information and assistance. If you should have any additional questions about what the police can and cannot do, please contact your local police department or the District Attorney's Office.

It Could Happen to You

  • What is your name?
  • Where do you live?
  • Do you have any identification?

These are simple questions that under certain circumstances police officers have the right and sometimes the obligation to ask. They can be answered easily by almost everyone. However, when a police officer asks these questions, it could cause problems for the police officer and you. Most of the time there is a reason why the officer is asking you such questions even though it may seem to you at the time that there isn't a reason.

Reasons for Being Questioned

The officer may be investigating a complaint phoned into the police by someone in the neighborhood. The officer may have been informed by the police radio that a crime has just been committed in the area. For one reason or another, you may be the person he or she suspects may be involved. You may have knowledge that will help the officer in the investigation, or the officer may think you are in need of assistance or help.

The officer has a responsibility and an obligation to obtain pertinent information to resolve any calls or incidents that he or she is involved in. Part of the investigative process is to ask questions that are relevant to the information the officer has received regarding the assignment. If you overreact to the officer's questions, you may create an even more serious situation. We will attempt to explain what rights you have, things you should remember and what you can expect when a police officer starts asking you questions.